Sunday, July 29, 2012

Another UFO completed

Trying to tidy up my sewing room a bit after a whirlwind of projects, I found this blouse that I made at a blouse sewing class at G Street Fabrics this winter.

 I went with my friend Mary over at Passionate Perseverance.  We had a great time and got a lot of refreshers on sewing basics and fittings.

We finished most of the project in the class.  All that was left to do was sew on the buttons.  The poor top languished on the bottom of the to-do pile while other projects were completed ahead.  But a couple of minutes of hand sewing in front of the TV (I don't like machine-sewn buttons) and now...Another UFO is completed!

The fabric is a quilting cotton so it is a bit heavy for the hot weather that we have been having.  I will have to wait to wear it on a gloomy, chilly fall day.  I think that the pattern is bright enough that it might even wake up my sleepy 9th graders at 7:20 am!  Hmmm...Maybe...

Hope you are having a relaxing Sunday!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Summer Fresh Grilled Pizza

Do I even need another reason to love summer?  I mean there is the time to regroup after the school year, the warm weather for walking outside, the unfettered time to sew, the time to reconnect with friends and family...

And now... How about these pizzas that we made tonight with ingredients from our garden and the farmer's market.


We have purchased these delicious focaccia at the farmer's market before, but have never grilled them.

Pair with a combo of homegrown and farmer's market tomatoes, some grilled japanese eggplant from they garden and some delicious cheese from whole foods and you get an amazing veggie dinner!

A plate of veggie deliciousness!

Here is the rough recipe for the 2 types of "pizza" that we created tonight.  Feel free to experiment with your own combinations.

Roasted Veggie Focaccia

1-2 Japanese eggplants, sliced in 1/4 inch slices and brushed with fat-free Italian dressing
8-9 small roma tomatoes
5  red onions cut into 1/2 inch slices
1 red pepper cut into large wedges
1 12 inch focaccia 
3-4 Tbsp feta, olive salad (We bought ours at Whole Foods)
(I also threw on some broccoli that we had left over.)  

1.  Brush eggplant slices with the Italian dressing.  Brush the onion slices, peppers, and tomatoes with olive oil. 
2.  Place in a single layer on a grill pan and grill over medium high heat for about 5 minutes, turning once. Keep a close eye on veggies so they don't over cook.
3.  Layer veggies on the focaccia rounds with roasted veggies and top with cheese
4.  Grill on a medium-hot grill until just warm.  Watch this very closely.  You do not want the bottom of the bread to burn.

Caprese Focaccia
2 large heirloom tomatoes
1 large ball of fresh mozzarella packed in water (Buffalo mozzarella would be even better if you can find/afford it!)
Fresh basil

1.  Slice the tomatoes and layer onto the focaccia covering the entire top.
2.  Add the fresh mozzarella
3.  Top with basil, some kosher salt and pepper
4.  Grill as above
(Easy, right?)

What are your favorites to feast on during my favorite summer season?  Leave a comment and let me know so that I can try that too!  Have I mentioned that I Love Summer?!  :-)

Summer to the Maxi Dress- Take 2

I was so flattered when my son's girlfriend saw the maxi dress I made for my daughter and asked if I would make one for her.
Here is the result:

Cute, right?  Girl and Dress!  :-)

We found the fabric at  It is an ITY knit.  I wasn't sure about sewing with this fabric at first, but now, after two projects with it, I am a believer!  The fabric is stretchy, but stable.  This means that it is very forgiving with cut and fit, but stays where you want it when sewing.  No crazy slipping all over the place.

I used a jersey needle and a tiny zigzag on my serger to keep everything stretchy.  I used the double needle on the hem for a quick finish.  In the past, I have had problems with "tunneling" when using a double needle, but I got some good advice from Leah at No Time to Sew and loosened the bobbin tension until I got the result I wanted.

I highly recommend this New Look pattern.  There is a picture on it on this post.  The directions were easy to follow and it easily goes together in a day.  I especially like the clean finishes on the inside of the dress.

Next up on the summer sewing list:  A few needed home dec projects. 
What have you been creating this summer?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Tshirt - about to be pillow

I'm experimenting with a new freeware watermark program.  Here is a picture of the tshirt that I used for the straps for my daughter's dress and which will shortly become a pillow for my son's dorm room.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Skirt To Dress Refashion

Yesterday's project was a dress-to-skirt refashion.  Today's is a skirt-to-dress refashion.  I found this very long, but not quite maxi, knit skirt in my recent closet purging.  It was desperately out of fashion and very unflattering, but I still really liked the fabric.  Thinking I might use the fabric to make some kind of a top for myself I hiked the dress up over my chest to see how much fabric there was and saw...a dress.  Not for me.  I just don't pull off strapless well, but my daughter has a cute little figure that I thought it would be perfect for.

Here is the skirt before the refashion:

See how thrilled my daughter is with the style?  haha!
Here is the refashioned skirt-to-dress:

So sassy cute, right?
We just pulled the elastic waistline up under her arms, tied some 1/4" elastic under the bustline to make the empire waist and marked it.  She didn't want to have the back be too blousy so the elastic is higher in the back than in the front.  This makes the hemline longer in the back than the front, which mimics the trailing back hem trend that we have been seeing in the stores. We stretched and stitched the elastic to the inside with a zigzag and - a new dress was born!

She wanted to be able to wear a regular bra with the dress so I happened to have a black t-shirt (also a closet purging find) that I am refashioning into a pillow for my son's college apartment.

Here's the T-shirt:

I borrowed a section from the bottom of the T-shirt to make the straps and even had enough left to make a cute little rosette for the bodice.

It's so hard to see details on black, but that is the rosette on the right there.
She went back to school today wearing the dress so I'm calling it a refashion success!  
Have you ever remade something that you liked even better than the original? 
 Leave a comment and tell us about it.
Now...Off for more fun with fabrics - and maybe even one feast tonight!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Summer Dress to Skirt Refashion

I bought this dress at Target last summer because I loved the embroidery at the bottom and I thought the shape hid a variety of whoas.  I have only worn it a couple of times, though.  That blah khaki color so close to my face really washes me out and after seeing pictures of myself, I decided that the color and the shape gave it more of a prison matron vibe instead of the fashion diva look I was going for.

Do you like the post-workout-no-makeup look?  Yikes!

So today I decided to save the part that I love - the embroidered border on the bottom - and ditch the rest.  I took out my sewing shears and...Wha La...a skirt from a dress!

I wrapped the elastic around the dress where I wanted the waistline to be and marked that spot.  Then I measured up from the hem and marked that distance all around the skirt and cut on the line.  I decided that I wanted a separate waistband rather than a foldover one so I cut another strip from the remaining fabric, inserted some 1 inch elastic and stretched and stitched it to the skirt waist.  The whole refashion took less than an hour!

I think that I will get a lot more use out of this look!

Bathroom Facelift

As a teacher, summer is project time for me.  I finally have the time to think about completing all those nagging little (and sometimes big!) projects that I don't have time for during the school year.  One of the not-so-little projects that I started right after school finished this year was a facelift for our hall bathroom.

The original 60's toilet and matching tile and tub color.

Very 90's Waverly plaid wallpaper and dull brown oak cabinets

Our poor little bathroom was firmly stuck in the 90's with some major nods to the 60's.  It was also missing several cabinet knobs and generally needed some TLC.  I didn't want to get into any major ripping out construction so decided on a "facelift."

Our "face-lifted" bathroom

Here is the new look!  Completely different, right?  

Here's what we did to update:
  • Had the tub and tiles reglazed
  • Painted
  • New toilet - No more yellow and only 1.2 gallons/flush!
  • Stained the cabinets ebony
  • New cabinet hardware
  • Framed the mirror 
  • New light fixture
  • New towel racks
  • Granite countertop from a remnant
I have picked out and ordered a blue and white fabric to make the shower curtain.  I'll post updated photos when that gets done - hopefully before next summer!

I'm so pleased with the update.  I think that we should be good for another decade or so.  :-)

What summer projects are you working on?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Yummy Salad for Hot days

I don't know about where you are, but here in NoVa it is HOT!!!  I just got back from my 4 mile walk drenched and looked at the thermometer...99 degrees at 10 am!!!

I definitely don't want anything heavy for lunch.  Here is a sweet little salad I made for dinner the other night using the fruit from the farmer's market.  It is from this month's Cooking Light Magazine.  Perfect for these sweltering days!

Stone Fruit Chicken-Rice Salad
(Serves 4)

3 (6 oz) skinless chicken breast halves 
(Or left over chicken or rotisserie chicken from the store)
1 tsp salt, divided
1/2 tsp black pepper divided
Cooking spray
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 tsp grated lemon rind
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 1/2 cups pitted, coarsely chopped nectarines
1 cup coarsely chopped pitted cherries
1 cup cooked brown rice, cooled 
(I used some basmati rice that I had leftover from another meal)
1/2 cup sliced green onions
1/4 cup dry-roasted almonds, chopped
Mixed Spring Greens
3 Tbsp torn mint

1. Preheat grill to medium-high heat. 
2.  Sprinkle both sides of chicken evenly with 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper.  Place chicken on a grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 5 minutes on each side or until done.  Let stand 5 minutes.  Chop chicken.  (I used some leftover chicken breasts.  If I am grilling for one dinner, I always make more for lunches or dinners later in the week.)
3.  Combine oil, rind, juice, and mustard in a large bowl, stirring well with a whisk.  Add chopped, cooked chicken, nectarines, and remaining ingredients; toss well.
(I added in a couple of handfuls of mixed spring greens - maybe 2 cups per serving and tossed it in too.)

The lemon and mint gave it such a refreshing taste and kept the sweetness of the nectarines and cherries from overwhelming.   The chicken and the almonds made it a filling and satisfying dinner salad.

Enjoy!  What are you feasting on for these HOT summer days?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Crazy for Summer Crazy Patch Pillow

One of the best things about summer - and there are oh so many good things - is the chance to finish up a lot of UFOs (unfinished objects).  I have an amazing number of UFOs in my little sewing room.  It is not so much that I don't want to finish the project or even that I don't have the time to finish, but the draw of that new, fun challenge is just too much to overcome sometimes.  The UFOs are starting to pile up...So...I have dedicated this summer to whittling down the pile of UFOs.

This week's no-longer U - FO is the crazy patch pillow from my Stitchin' Charleston Style trips two years ago.  It was really a fun project to work on - but there was a lot of detail (read: It took some time to complete).  Laura Jenkins Thompson is the designer of this little gem.  She is such a talented designer and teacher.  All of her projects are packed with amazing detail!

We started six of the patches in class and then Laura sent us home with directions for the rest.  Each patch has some sort of embellishment and then every seam is embellished.  It was great fun to work on. The seam embellishments were the perfect project for the car trips we have been taking this summer - not too detailed or small.

I decided that with so much embellishment on the front, I couldn't leave the back unadorned so I added some pretty buttons from my stash.

So...One more UFO  is complete!  Next up...Nevermind...I don't want to commit myself.  I never know when I will be distracted by what will become the next UFO!  :-)
What projects are you wrapping up this summer?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Sweet mama! Now that is summer!

Farmers market tomatoes and fresh mozzarella and basil from my garden. 'nuff said.

Feasting Moroccan style

I was in the mood for something a bit exotic, but not in the mood for a long stay in the kitchen.  After digging through my older special edition cookbooks, I stumbled upon Chicken Tagine in the July 2009 issue of Cooking Light's 5-ingredient, 15-minute cookbook.  A touch exotic and quick - perfect!
It was delicious, but took a touch longer than 15 minutes - mostly because I had to make my own moroccan spice mix.  My husband deemed the dinner a "do-over" which is our family's equivalent of 2 thumbs up.  

Hubby likes thighs and I prefer white meat so I used a few of each.  I just cut the chicken breasts in half and added them a bit later so they wouldn't dry out.  I will also include the recipe for the brown butter couscous that I served on the side.

Enjoy feasting Moroccan Style!

Chicken Tagine
8 (3 oz) skinless, boneless chicken thighs 
(Because I cannot follow a recipe exactly, I used 4 bone-in chicken thighs - way cheaper - and took off the skin myself and 2 boneless chicken breasts cut in half)
1 1/2 tsp moroccan spice blend 
(I couldn't find this in the store so I used this recipe:  Moroccan Spice Mix)
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 tsp olive oil
1 (16 oz) can chickpeas rinsed and drained
1 (14.5 oz can diced tomatoes with garlic and onion (or with any other seasoning- just not mexican) undrained
Plain fat-free yogurt (for topping)
Chopped fresh mint (for topping)

1.  Sprinkle both sides of chicken with spice blend, salt and pepper.  Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add chicken to pan; cook 2 minutes on each side or until browned. 

2. Add chickpeas and tomatoes to pan; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 8 minutes or until chicken is done.  

This makes 4 servings - 2 thighs (or 2 pieces of chicken breast) , 2/3 cup veggies, and about 3/4 cup couscous.

Brown Butter Couscous
1.  Add 2 teaspoons of butter to a pan over medium-high heat.  Heat, stirring or swirling frequently and watching very closely until butter just turns golden brown. Remove from heat
2.  Add 2 Tbsp of pine nuts and 3/4 cup of couscous and brown lightly.
3.  Add 1 cup of chicken broth, cover and allow to sit for about 10 minutes
4. Just before serving, add the juice of 1/2 lemon and fluff with a fork.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Birthday Tote

Today was my son's girlfriend's birthday and I wanted to make something special for her.  What can any college-aged girl use?  A tote bag, of course!  I made this tote once before with my niece and really like the result.  The pattern is perfect for beginners like my niece and for more experienced sewers who are looking for a quick and easy project with a beautiful and practical end product.

I used this pattern that I bought at the Artful Quilter - which has since gone out of business.  :-(

It isn't really a pattern - just directions and dimensions for all the fabric pieces.  All the pieces are straight edges and the directions are simple and clear.  I cut out the bag yesterday in about an hour and a half and then sewed it together today in under two hours!  (It took a bit longer with my 12-year-old niece - but what a great project to learn on!)

Here is the finished tote:

Do you like the little monogram on the side?
The inside is lined with a coordinating pattern and has 6 little pockets:

So hard to get a picture of the inside of a totebag!
I already posted a picture of the one I made with my niece on facebook, but that was before I had the blog.  Sorry if this is a repeat.

Fuzzy picture!  This taken with my old blackberry - Awful picture quality!

Two projects completed in one week!  I'm in summer sewing nirvana!  
What are you sewing this summer?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Summer to the Maxi Dress

Finally, time for a summer sewing project!  It was one of those "drop-everything-and-concentrate-only-on-this" projects that I truly love.

My younger daughter came home for one of her whirlwind visits - just 2 nights!- so I figured I better get going on the maxi dress that she had requested while I had her physically here for a few fittings.

We found a cute black and white ITY knit at Joanne's on sale. The pattern we picked out was version B of this pattern:

I had not worked with an ITY knit before, but was very happy about how easy it was to work with.  It was a bit slippery and the edges tended to roll if I was not careful, but overall it was a nice fabric to work with.  Since I am still working on fitting adult bodies, I did make a muslin of the bodice.  Boy was I glad I did!  I ended up making a whole size smaller than the pattern envelope measurements indicated.  Other than that, I didn't have to make many adjustments.  The pattern directions were easy to follow and all the pieces fit together perfectly! went together in a day - a long day, but still one day.

Overall, I think mother and daughter were both happy about how this project turned out - even at 1:30 am when we put the final touches on the double needle hem so that she could take it back to school with her today.    :-)

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Patriotic Potato Salad

Whew! Haven't posted for awhile...Power outages and facelifting two bathrooms at once made blogging a low-on-my-list activity.  Sharing a bathroom with a couple of college-aged kids is good encouragement to get the bathrooms done ASAP!  I'll post some before and after pictures when we get more done.

We are heading to a potluck picnic and fireworks this evening for the 4th of July and I was assigned potato salad.  Now I am not a fan of potato salad - eating or making it.  Somehow it always comes out grainy and heavy.  But...Pinterest came to the rescue.  I found a recipe for Loaded Baked Potato Salad and it is delicious!  I think that it was the combo of using Yukon Gold potatoes (a bit less starchy), cooking them until just tender and then the classic baked potato toppings for the sauce (I mean, who doesn't love sour cream, cheese and bacon?).

I'm still not a super fan of potato salad, but this one definitely was a winner.  My husband loved it!

It sure looks pretty too!  Here is the link to the originial:  Dishing with Leslie

Loaded Baked Potato Salad
4 large Russet or Yukon Gold potatoes 
(I used the Yukon Gold potatoes and left about half of the skin on)
1/4 cup mayonnaise (I used light mayo)
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup freshly chopped chives, divided 
(I have garlic chive growing wild in the garden so I used those - Anyone need garlic chives?  I have plenty to spare!)
8 strips of bacon (6 for the salad and 2 for topping) cooked and crumbled
1 tsp black pepper
salt to taste
Serves 4 - 6 

In a small bowl, mix together your mayonnaise, and sour cream. Make sure the two are completely combined and then add half of the chives, and all of the cheese, and pepper. Taste mixture to see if you prefer some salt. (I usually add a dash or two.) Let chill in fridge for a bit. Meanwhile, peel and cube your potatoes into bite size pieces. Put in a large pot, cover with water, and boil until just fork tender. About 20 minutes. *You need to keep an eye on them. If they cook too long you'll end up with more of a mashed potato consistency when you mix them with the sauce.

When potatoes are ready, drain and let cool just a bit. *Let them cool a lot if you plan to serve chilled. Put potatoes in a large bowl or dish and combine with sour cream mixture. Top with remaining half of chives and crumbled bacon.

Happy 4th of July everyone!  
God Bless the USA!
God bless all those who are serving to preserve our freedom!